A Summer of Self-Care

According to Oxford Living Dictionaries, self-care "is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health, or the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during times of stress". Considering the way the summer holidays are portrayed in popular culture, you would never imagine this to be a stressful time, or that you might need strategies for preserving your health and well-being. However if you're planning a trip away, or you're a parent with the long summer holidays ahead, you will surely understand the reason for, and timing of, this post!

As much as we might 'look forward' or plan to have a wonderful summer, it doesn't always live up to expectations. Add in a few relatives you don't really get along with, the potential challenges of being in a different place, eating unusual food, drinking too much alcohol and not enough water, not to mention possible travel delays, and you can see the potential for stress. That's without even thinking about keeping any kids safe, fed, exercised, and entertained, the cost implications, or juggling work.

While it may not be possible to avoid all of the potential summer stressors, it can be helpful to have a few strategies which will help you to stay in the right frame of mind, and to cope more easily if things divert from what you'd planned! In this post, I'll be offering just that.

Before we dive into any strategies, I want to bring your attention to the three key elements of the dictionary definition.

  1. Self-care is about 'protecting' your health, wellbeing and happiness. Rather than being the luxury many people assume, protecting these things should be a priority, however busy you are. This is not what most of us have been conditioned to think, and is especially important if you're caring for others, at home or at work. (We all know the saying: "you can't pour from an empty cup.")

  2. It's something that you need to be 'active' about - in other words, the onus is on YOU to do something about it.

  3. Self-care is a 'practice' rather than being a one-time thing. Like playing a sport, or an instrument, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. It's said that it takes approximately two months to create a new habit, so that it becomes automatic. If you start practicing self-care now, by the Autumn you won't need really to think about it.

So what exactly is it? Self-care can - and should - encompass all aspects of an individual - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The term is both wide ranging and subjective - which means our personal needs at any time are likely to depend on our circumstances. The specifics might even change from day to day, or hour to hour.

Common methods of self-care include getting more sleep, improved nutrition or hydration, exercise, meditation, getting help with something, engaging in a spiritual practice, or taking time out. Lear